FCC customer Fieldless Farms hits grocery store shelves
“It’s easy to grow plants indoors, where it gets hard is to grow them and sell them at a price that Canadians are going to be happy with.” Jon Lomow, Fieldless Farms CEO
Jon Lomow and his indoor farming operation, Fieldless Farms have found a winning formula in this emerging agriculture sector.
The FCC customer recently announced a deal that puts their cut lettuce mixes on Farm Boy grocery store shelves. This exciting milestone comes after years of careful business planning and developing the right technology that allows them to bring year-round local produce to Canadians.
Jon believes the next industrial revolution is in agriculture. Fieldless Farms is proving that as they invest in controlled environment agriculture. Their Cornwall, Ontario farm grows leafy greens using highly controlled environments and renewable energy, all without herbicides or pesticides.
Jon’s passion for indoor farming is fueled by his desire to alter Canada’s reliance on importing food from other countries by finding a way to grow more types of food locally.
“This was born out of my own realization that Canada needs to focus on national food security and self-reliance,” said Jon. “COVID-19 was the shot across the bow. What if there is a catastrophic failure of our food supply system? While there weren’t huge impacts this time, although it’s still early, the pandemic showed us that our current food system is vulnerable. We need to have more locally produced products on the shelves.”
The Farm Boy deal comes just one year after Fieldless closed a $3 million first round of funding from local investors and FCC.
“FCC has been awesome. We are huge champions. FCC was a big part of our $3M raise and certainly gave our investors the peace of mind to be a part of something like this. FCC has been with us the whole way there, Craig has been awesome.”
Craig Hedden, Relationship Manager at FCC’s Kanata, Ontario office says working with Fieldless Farms has been rewarding for his entire team. When the pandemic hit, they saw how agile Jon and his team are.
“Fieldess has an exceptional team of managers who were able to adjust quickly when the pandemic hit and original plans got delayed. They worked with a related organization to develop a virtual farmers market that offered local products in a curbside pickup format and locked in contracts with local grocery stores and distributors that were intrigued by the product and its year-round supply. Despite a pandemic that could have derailed their plans, they chose to innovate and diversify. When we say we lend to people we trust to execute and manage, this is what we mean. Since the spring, they have proven out their yields and are starting to think about an expansion to meet the pent-up demand.”
Jon says there is something different about partnering with FCC as their lender.
“We love the personal relationship FCC brings. They understand agriculture, they understand what we are trying to do, they see the horizon. Everyone at FCC is genuinely excited about what we are doing. It’s a really nice relationship.”
The indoor farming industry is nascent, and Jon sees the potential ahead.
“The world needs a lot more food to keep up with population growth, but we’ll need to do it with our hands tied behind our backs. We have climate change making extreme weather events and drought more frequent. We have increasing food safety challenges, deteriorating soils and decreasing pollinator populations. Plus Canadians want to eat healthier and are buying more vegetables. We currently import $48 billion worth of food annually, and we will increasingly be competing with other nations to get our hands on it. We need to build up our own capacity. It’s a huge economic opportunity, but it’s also an important insurance policy.”
Fieldless Farms is already expanding to continue to meet customer demand. The focus is on leafy green mixes right now but Jon expects baby tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers from indoor Canadian farms to be on our plates in the foreseeable future.
Part of that success will come from prudent business planning.
“We’ve seen other companies who have massive valuations who may not ever make money. We sat on the sidelines for a long time until we had the right technology partner. At times it seemed like the wrong decision but as time went on and we saw the mistakes others made, we feel more emboldened that we made the right decision,” Jon says. “We’ve cultivated these partner relationships over time, put them through their paces and understand things need to work. It’s a different approach than we see across the industry.”
Jon says his competition isn’t other indoor farmers, but rather foreign products from California and Arizona. His hope is that shoppers will buy Canadian.
“If we can be next to imported product on the shelf at the same price, I think Canadians choose us. Then hopefully we wow them with our quality, and we’ve got fans for life.”
Farm Boy will carry the company’s no-need-to-wash, read-to-eat, “Northern Crunch” and “Ontario Sweets” lettuce mixes starting with 16 stores in Kingston, Ottawa and Cornwall.